Nearly every year, states across the country are experiencing longer wildfire seasons and more severe wildfires. These natural disasters can be very devastating as they destroy countless homes and acres of land. Homeowners that live in wildfire-prone areas need insurance to protect them against damages caused by these fires.
But does your standard homeowners insurance policy cover wildfires?
Generally speaking, home insurance does cover fire and smoke damage caused by wildfires. Depending on your coverages and coverage limits, your home insurance policy may help pay to rebuild your home, cover temporary living expenses, and replace your personal belongings after a wildfire.
Here’s what you need to know about how homeowners insurance can help protect you against wildfire damage.
If a wildfire damages or destroys your home and personal belongings, your homeowners insurance policy can help you recover.
Standard home insurance policies include several different coverages that can help you get your life back to normal after a wildfire, including dwelling, other structures, personal property, and loss of use coverage.
Dwelling coverage can help you pay to repair or rebuild your home after a wildfire. Your dwelling coverage limit is the maximum amount that your insurance policy will pay to help restore your home to its original quality, so make sure your coverage limit is equal to your home’s replacement cost.
Your home insurance may also cover the costs of debris removal if your home is completely destroyed and leaves a pile of debris behind.
Other structures coverage covers your home’s detached structures, which could include a detached garage, fence, patio, pool house, or shed. If these structures are destroyed or damaged by a wildfire, other structures coverage can help pay to repair them up to your coverage limit. Your other structures coverage limit is typically set as a percentage of your dwelling coverage limit.
One of the most important coverages for homeowners in wildfire-prone areas is loss of use coverage. This coverage can help pay for your temporary living expenses, like temporary accommodations and meals from restaurants, if your home becomes uninhabitable due to wildfire damage.
In some states, like California, homeowners can make loss of use coverage claims if local authorities order them to evacuate due to a wildfire, even if it never actually reaches their home.
Loss of use coverage limits are also often set as a percentage of your dwelling coverage limit, but you can typically increase your limit if you want or need extra coverage.
Personal property coverage can help you pay to replace your damaged belongings, including furniture, clothing, electronics, appliances, and jewelry.
The default coverage limit for personal property coverage is typically around 50% of your dwelling coverage limit, but most insurers will let you increase this amount as needed to ensure all of your personal belongings and valuables are covered.
Homeowners that live in wildfire-prone areas may find it difficult to find affordable home insurance policies. In some cases, insurance companies may even deny you coverage if you live in an area that frequently experiences wildfires.
Most states offer Fair Access to Insurance Requirements (FAIR) Plans. These are state-mandated insurance programs that provide coverage for high-risk homes. These plans are more expensive than standard home insurance policies, so homeowners should explore their options before choosing a FAIR Plan.
You may also be able to purchase insurance through excess and surplus lines (E&S) insurers. These plans cover extreme risks that regular insurers may not be willing to cover, including wildfires for homes in fire-prone areas. Like FAIR Plans, these insurance policies are typically more expensive than regular home insurance policies, but for some homeowners, they may be the only way to get coverage against wildfires.
There are steps homeowners can and should take to reduce their risk of wildfire damage. In some cases, implementing certain fire safety measures may even help you find more affordable coverage.
To protect your property against wildfires, keep these tips in mind:
If a wildfire approaches your home, these safety measures can help minimize the damage that the fire causes.